Psychiatric medication

Explains what psychiatric drugs are, what to know before taking them, and information on side effects and coming off medication.

What is psychiatric medication?

Psychiatric medication includes all drugs which can be prescribed to treat different types of mental health problems, or to reduce the symptoms. 

What types of psychiatric medication are there?

There are four main types of psychiatric medication: 

Type of psychiatric medication What it's prescribed for
Mood stabilisers
Sleeping pills and minor tranquillisers

In addition to looking at our pages on these types of medication by clicking the links in the table above, you can also find reliable information on the eMC (electronic Medicines Compendium) and NHS Choices websites. 

Why might I take medication? 

Generally, psychiatric drugs can’t cure a mental health problem. But in some cases, they can help reduce the symptoms or help you cope with them better. 

Whether you are offered medication or not depends on:

  • your diagnosis
  • your symptoms
  • how severely the condition affects you

There are many other types of treatment options as well as medication. Many people use a combination of medication and other treatments, such as a talking treatment, to manage their condition. 

How long might I take medication for?

Again, this depends on:

  • your diagnosis
  • how severely the condition affects you

For some conditions (such as depression, or an episode of psychosis), you might only be expected take the medication for a specific period of time.

If you have repeated episodes of mental ill health (such as might happen with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia), your doctor might advise you to stay on your medication for several years, or indefinitely.

Who can prescribe medication? 

You can be prescribed psychiatric medication by: 

  • a GP  
  • a psychiatrist 
  • a nurse prescriber – usually attached to your surgery or community mental health team (CMHT) 

This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2018.

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